All experienced sales professionals agree that qualifying prospective clients is one of the key elements in the sales process. Incorrectly or not thoroughly assessed inquires lead to bad prioritization, and divert sales resources from their ultimate goal, selling. In this article, you will find key questions that may provide support along the important journey of customer classification.
What do you aim to achieve? What are your current goals?
Especially when it comes to beginner salespeople, they are often so happy for the feeling of having found someone interested in listening, that they forget to ask questions about what the potential clients need. However, mapping out the needs and requirements on the demand side is the alpha and omega of a successful sales cycle. There are a thousand other ways for a sales process to go sideways, don’t leave space to slip on the most important factor.
The clients of Kingsman Staffing usually state that they need qualified and experienced workforce to fill in unexpected gaps to be able to maintain workflow. Your potential customers might have different issues, but having pain points in the business is more common than you would think. If the prospect is not opening up about their struggles, which is natural behavior as nobody wants to look weak, approach this topic from the other way around. You can ask about what would make the potential client happy - and you will get unbelievably straightforward answers, like we are seeking ways to achieve our targets, or we would be happy to have more sales. Don’t forget, support or help is not something all prospects are open to, however, if you offer additional value in form of extra income or less work for the same revenue, that is a hard-to-turn-down bargain.
Segmenting customer goals
You had a thorough conversation about the company with one of the managers, and if all things went well, you got the full picture. Or was it the total package of information available? The answer is clearly no. The management will likely push the project to serve the overall, high-level goals of the company, while if you speak with a mid-level executive or an operator-level employee, they all will tell you their own side of the story. It is vital, to gather knowledge from different levels of the chain of command, especially when you are dealing with a mid-to-large-sized client.
What is your budget for this project?
While it is easy to see the logic behind it, companies rarely think that pragmatically to acknowledge it: if the product or service brings more value than its costs, it is a great business. When it comes to prices, there is absolute expensiveness (when the costs are higher than the generated values), while there is also a relative expensiveness, which depends on where the decision-makers think the prices should be.
Clarifying the budget on the demand side as soon as possible is vital for the sales team. If the ballparks don’t match, you can always adapt the content of your offer. If the distance is too far to cover, close the process as quickly as possible, but make sure that you leave a great impression - you can never know when things might change, leading the prospect back to you with stronger financial empowerment.
Have you been requesting this service before?
Some of our clients at Kingsman Staffing have already bought services from one of our competitors and came to us with a historic (good or less appealing) experience. Potential clients might have a history with your industry, and if they had a bad experience in the past, you will need to fight with these shadows too.
The best way to deal with this situation is to ask early as many questions as possible. You want to learn about the prospect’s past experience with competitors, and why they have parted ways. There are situations, in which companies simply don’t match - as, on a date, there is no chemistry between present parties. There are other cases, in which the potential client arrives with serious prejudice to you as they have already had a bad experience related to the provided service, the acquired product, the communication with your predecessor, or about financials. Knowing this will strengthen your position, as you can cover the sensitive topic in advance and treat it with extra care in advance.
How does your decision-making process work?
If you have been in a situation, in which you already felt the deal closed, contract in the pocket, then it suddenly turned out that you haven’t even spoken with the real decision-maker, you will never miss this question again.
Planning your resources, both financial- and time-wise, should be based on your internal processes, while also on your customers. To be able to predict the outcome and length of the sales cycle, you need to have exact knowledge about what will happen on the other side. Have you already spoken to the right person? Are there multiple rounds with different decision-makers? Or will this be an ad-hoc, quick purchase by the prospect? You can ask directly to know more.
How do you want your organization to look like in the near future and in 10 years?
We admit, this question might evoke the feeling of a job interview, so definitely not the best first question. However, it is in your best interest to know more about your future partners, as it helps you to think and plan ahead with your products and services. When listening to the answer, you might get a great idea, how to adapt one of your current services to cover the prospect’s future requirements, which may lead to future business and an even stronger partnership.
Although there are many more topics to address during the qualification of a new prospect, if you ask the above questions, they will potentially save you a lot of time, energy, and might even bring you new business.